Suvi's Reviews > The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
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's review
Jul 24, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: 1800s, _1001-before-you-die, novels, _north-america, historical

Hawthorne's novel has been extensively force-fed to unsuspecting American students, and I'm not the least bit surprised if several of those students develop a disgust towards classics, or get chills from the bare mention of The Scarlet Letter. This is so dry, dry as the Sahara, that I just have to wonder what teachers are thinking. Are there really no other more riveting American classics out there that can be enjoyed by the young?

The reading experience I had was pretty sticky, which made me spend a lot more time than usual with a book this short. The intentionally archaic language wasn't as much a problem than the overabundant moralism, that is shoved down the reader's throat and drowns the characters. In addition, the male of the story gets a bit too much weight in a novel that's essentially about Hester and her crime. Who, by the way, is a compliant shadow, who only wins over the puritan society when she behaves like an angel, and regresses into a one-dimensional puritan prototype. Not to mention her nonexistent personality. The woman is a raven-haired image of supreme virtue, idealism, and righteousness. The man ponders in great detail, depth, maturity, and multidimensionality the meaning of sin and repentance to which his profession adds tension.

The idea was ok and some thoughts were interesting, but Hawthorne's actual execution is just horrendously dry drag. Maybe this benefits more from being the topic of discussion instead of actual reading. It's also difficult to believe that the puritans were as cold-hearted as they are described here. Maybe Hawthorne dealt with them through the 19th century lens or something.

Then again, Hawthorne may have also wanted to ease his guilt about his ancestor John Hathorne, who was the only judge in the Salem witch hunt who never regretted his actions. Either way, The Scarlet Letter smells awfully like a historical artifact, whose appreciation might partly stem from the fact that it represents the roots of Americans themselves in addition to the roots of American bestsellers.
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Reading Progress

July 24, 2012 – Shelved
July 24, 2012 – Shelved as: 1800s
July 24, 2012 – Shelved as: _1001-before-you-die
July 24, 2012 – Shelved as: novels
July 24, 2012 – Shelved as: _north-america
July 24, 2012 – Shelved as: historical
November 29, 2013 – Started Reading
December 25, 2013 – Finished Reading

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